Scouting The 2017 Las Vegas Summer League

Just a quick reminder, Summer League is still Summer League.  It’s great to scout and see so many players at once but this is unstructured basketball.  It’s not similar to pro games during the season.  And evaluations, both good and bad, needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  Just because someone is ‘killing it’ or ‘getting destroyed’ doesn’t necessarily mean much on the prospects of how they will do in the season to come.

Vegas is for Business: Desperate Euro Market 2017

The exodus of players to the NBA, NBA 2-Way Contracts, China, Japan, Mars, Jupiter….. has been well expressed online.  And it could be felt heavily at the world’s biggest basketball marketplace, the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League.  Any re-signings from last year for Europeans teams at all levels has to be seen as a major coup in this market.  And the other advantage was teams who signed players early (as long NBA-outs weren’t included in the contract).

But for a moment lets think on the positive side for Europe, it’s the best place in the world to showcase your talent outside the NBA.  And that’s at a whole lot of different levels.  But if most players goals are to either make the NBA or make the most money possibly in their career (China and Euroleague) then the best route is go kill it in Europe at a mid-level one year, jump up to FIBA BCL, Eurocup, or Euroleague team and then you’re hunted by anyone who has money globally.  So while young players are jumping to Japan or Korea or sticking around longer doing D-League/non-guaranteed NBA deals, the best way to prove yourself as a young player is to have a couple big years in Europe.  Look at Royce O’Neal (2 years), Khem Birch (2), Jamil Wilson (1), Darius Miller (2.5), Ekpe Udoh (2), Brandon Paul (2ish)…. Now they’re in the NBA.

In Europe you’re playing against high level competition constantly with many NBA teams having full-time European based scouts now just focusing on evaluating pro’s.  And Chinese and Japanese teams have gotten smarter, instead of taking less proven D-League players or NBA dropouts they’re taking proven Euro pro’s who have established how good they are in an International league.  And when you go to Europe and play well, that always stays on your resume, once you’re good and you stay in shape, you’re a known commodity for a higher price tag if you ever want to come back.  So while the sky sometimes looks like it’s falling with the Euro Market this summer, it’s still the best proving ground for a player’s globally.

Vegas Top Performers

Same rules for the write-ups as Orlando: the Top Performers list will just consist of players with the potential to play (or continue playing) overseas.  So no rookies or players with multiple year contracts will be mentioned. But in Vegas there’s 24 teams and many guys played well so not even close to everyone deserving is chronicled. Also held off on players who just made the NBA but played well like Mike James and Jamil Wilson.

Isaiah Taylor, Houston Rockets

Taylor is the start of the ‘Euro Pipe Dream’ list of young playmakers that so badly could be used in the Euroleague (check the next 3 names after him too).  Taylor’s weapon of choice is his speed and decision making.  He was an absolute bullet with the ball and did a great job managing the pick and roll to find open teammates.  Often more of a scorer in college, Taylor has really grown as a point guard and shot creator for others.  He had the ball on a string all week. Has non-guaranteed deal with the Rockets.

Fred Van Vleet, Toronto Raptors

Van Vleet would be the likely #1 draft pick if Euroleague teams could have one for players on non-guaranteed NBA contracts.  He’s just so damn smart, has a strong body, and continually finds his way into the paint.  His scoring game has really come along and constantly defenders had a tough time staying in front of Fred.  Would be a star in Europe.  Has non-guaranteed deal with the Raptors.

Bryn Forbes, San Antonio Spurs

I’ve had an argument with a Euroleague scout in the past about how good Forbes was.  He thought he could be really good at a high level, I was skeptical that Forbes could be more than just a really good shooter on a high level, but not a giant role.  Well if Summer League is a predictor of success (which is often a tossup), I’d be wrong.  Forbes was absolutely sensational.  The shots he hit in Vegas were ones you’d dream up playing H-O-R-S-E.  He has an unbelievable touch on the ball.  But what’s been the biggest break thru in his game is all the ball-handling and playmaking he is comfortable doing now.  No longer Denzel Valentine’s wingman, most of Forbes’ shots were created off the bounce.  Really you nee to go back and watch some of his highlights. Has non-guaranteed deal with the Spurs.

Alex Caruso, LA Lakers

Yes, Lonzo Ball is an amazing passer with insane vision, but don’t count out Caruso in either category.  A player I was super high on as a rookie for Europe (tears shed as that ship is sailing away), Caruso is a former P.I.T. standout who turned a lot of heads in Vegas.  He’s just an exceptional passer who makes reads few other players see.  And being so tall it helps with all those open angles he’s looking for.  The first game Lonzo sat out, the Lakers won because Caruso has that some infectious ability that gets the ball moving with energy throughout the team.  Signed a 2-way contract with the Lakers.

Anthony Gill, Cleveland Cavaliers

Played in Orlando and Vegas and really turned it on in the last 2 games in Orlando which fed into his Vegas success.  Doesn’t have a traditional NBA role, Gill found his way by just playing harder.  Finding lanes to cut behind the defense, quick rip-thru and go moves before his defender was set, and finding sneaky angles for o-boards.  Gill has some old school to him and it worked in Summer League.  It also helped in Vegas that he actually hit a few jump shots and it let the rest of his game open up.  Already signed with Khimki to play Euroleague

Matt Costello, Minnesota Timberwolves

A banger on a mission.  Few people know their job and do it to a T like Costello.  He’s sets big screens and rolls hard to the rim.  He dominates the glass.  Is just more forceful than other players.  What was intriguing was a development in his passing, potentially has some mid-roll game in his future.  And defensively he’s moving well, covering space, and contesting shots.  Would have been perfect in the ACB.  Spurs signed him to a 2-way contract.

Troy Williams, Houston Rockets

If you didn’t see Williams play at all during Summer League then go watch because I can’t possibly explain exactly how he played.  I’m not sure he belongs in the Top Performers category but he certainly deserves to be mentioned somewhere.  Williams is an absolute freak athlete who plays with reckless abandon, he’s fearless.  And that’s not always good.  The decision making is not there but the pure scoring potential was on full display.  Ripping through the whole defense for huge dunks, going into hyper-drive in transition, and just being an absolute missile.  In the five games he played he put up the 6th most shots in Vegas.  Whether it was going really good or bad, Williams put on a show.

Rookies Quick Hits

No draft picks included.

Milton Doyle, Brooklyn Nets

One of those do everything wing/guards. So much versatility. On the ball, off the ball, as an attacker. Kept finding a way to be active.

TJ Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers

Truck stick of a guard. Cavs let him go and he kept motoring running right to the rim.

Charles Cooke, Minnesota Timberwolves

In a world obsessed with skilled wings, Cooke fits the bill. Looked more spry than in college, was active making plays off the catch.

Naz Mitrou-Long, Sacramento Kings

Continuing his on-ball progression from College to P.I.T. to here. Strong, smart, shoots it.

Devin Robinson, Washington Wizards

Enticing forward who you’d think went barely undrafted. Glides around the court. So smooth. Combo forward type everyone wants. Body is great. Potential is high.

Michael Young, Washington Wizards

Gritty undersized 4. Just works hard, has some stretch game and fights. Paul Millsap style.

Johnathan Motley, Dallas Mavericks

Worker, might be a tweener for the NBA but a perfect Euro 5. Strong with super mobility. Mixes it up inside.

Matt Thomas, LA Lakers

The Ball-Caruso passing made a lot of guys look good, including Thomas who was 17/28 from 3 for the week.